The headline in the Hazleton Standard-Speaker on Wednesday February 12, 1964 said,
                      "MMI 'Crushes' West Hazleton 7-5."

1/30/05   by Bill Gaffey

The slow down is one of the most difficult strategies to carry out in a basketball game.  First of all, the fans on both sides of the aisle usually detest the idea.  They howl, yell, complain and in some cases threaten.  It takes salesmanship on the part of the coach using the strategy to sell the idea to his team.  Then things have to fall into place in the right fashion to make it work.  The opposing coach has to be careful how he attacks the team holding the ball.  If he presses and traps to try to force the action, he may set his own team up for a defensive breakdown that allows easy back door baskets by the team slowing down the ball.  It creates a tense style of play, players soon discover that there are not as  many possessions and not as many shots.
Most people who hear the score today, don't realize that both MMI and West Hazleton scored over 100 points against other opponents during the season and both were tied for first place in the Anthracite League at one time.  They were both very good teams.  In fact just a week before this game, Ray Saul writing for the Standard-Speaker in his column, "Speaking of Sports," commented about the high scoring games in the area, "last night was a shooters night West Hazleton led the scoring parade with 98, Hazleton had 95, Weatherly had 93, and MMI scored 88."  No one saw Pearl Harbor coming in 1941, and in the Anthracite League no one saw a 7-5 slow down coming in 1964.
In the game between MMI Prep of Freeland and West Hazleton, West Hazleton took the early lead 3-2 midway through the first quarter. MMI ran an offense that pretended to be interested in scoring, but in fact was not.  They held the ball until the end of the quarter when with seconds remaining, Jack Hollis drove to the basket, was fouled and make them both to give MMI a 4-3 lead.
No one scored in the second quarter, MMI concentrated their defensive efforts on West Hazleton's Grobelny and Schaefer while choosing to allow Sypeck any shot he wanted from the outside.  He never made a shot all night.  Meanwhile, every time MMI had the ball, they passed, dribbled, dribbled, passed and advanced the ball only to take it back and start over.  The score stayed at 4-3 at the half.
West Hazleton scored in the first 15 seconds of the third quarter to take a 5-4 lead. Despite trailing, MMI continued to hold the ball using a combination of weaves and passing offensive maneuvers. The score remained 5-4 as the third quarter ended.  MMI continued their strategy into the fourth quarter and the score remained 5-4 until 55 seconds remained in the game and MMI took a time out.  They continued to use their weave until 18 seconds remained, and Hollis drove through the middle and scored to put MMI ahead 6-5.  West Hazleton pushed the ball up the court to Grobelny who missed a shot and Schaefer rebounded for West Hazleton and was fouled.  He missed the shot which could have tied it.  Jack Feussner rebounded for MMI, was fouled and made one shot to set the final score in stone at 7-5.  The March 12, 1964 story in the Hazleton Standard Speaker said "that the West Hazleton fans were ready to lynch Al Geodecke, the MMI coach who conceived the whole idea."  The Pennsylvania Basketball Website talked to Coach Al Geodecke on January 27, 2004, forty years after the game.  He remembered the game like it was yesterday.  He said that a lot of things had to fall into place to make his strategy work, he remarked that "the rosary beads were clicking in our favor!"  For instance, West Hazelton became more deliberate and held the ball themselves for a while.  That helped MMI according to  Coach Geodecke. 
 In those days when the season ended, the public schools like West Hazleton had the PIAA  state playoffs and catholic schools had the PCIAA playoffs, but a private school like MMI had no where to go when the season ended.  So a game like this took on even more importance for them.

Who would you have bet on going into this game?

-On Tuesday February 11, 1964, the Standard-Speaker said, "the West Hazleton Wildcats, defending league champs and winners of the first half, are a firm choice to turn back MMI at West Hazleton."
-West Hazleton had scored 118 points the Friday before in a 118-71 win over St. Ann's!
-In fact, West Hazleton had scored over 100 points five times before this game!
-West Hazleton had not lost in their home gymnasium in four years!
-West Hazleton had dominated their league with 63 straight league wins before this game!
-West Hazleton was undefeated for the year and stood  at 17-0.
-It was suggested that this game be moved to a larger court so more fans could see the game.  West Hazleton decided to keep the game at their own court even though it was much smaller.  They wanted the home court advantage.

A question was raised in the article by Don Barnes who covered the game in 1964 for the Hazleton Standard-Speaker, "Is that kind of game ethical?"  It was better than ethical, it was a great strategy.  It was a coaching maneuver that took great personal courage.  It was a game plan that took brilliant execution by the MMI players.  It was a great game!

The Box Score

                FG     FT    Pts
Feussner     0     3-7     0  
Hollis           1     2-2     4
Urenovich   0     0-1     0
Kanuck        0     0-0     0  
Woodring   0     0-0     0
DiNcia          0     0-0     0
Lazur            0     0-0     0
Velten          0     0-0     0
Totals          1    5-10   7

  West Hazleton
Sypeck         0    0-0    0
Grobelny      1    1-1    3
Henry           0    0-0    0

Schaefer       0   1-6     1
Salvanorich 0    1-4     1
R. Beach       0    0-0    0
Williams       0    0-0     0
Martnick       0    0-0    0
Totals           1    3-11  5

 Earlier in the season, West Hazleton had defeated MMI by eight points and won the first half of league play.  The 7-5 victory by MMI threw the League into a three way tie for the second half and this set up a third meeting between the two teams.  West Hazleton won that third game 79-69 and the league title. After the game, MMI coach, Al Geodecke announced his retirement from the coaching profession.  He had been the MMI coach for 12 successful years.  So he left coaching in 1964 and never returned.  But his bold strategy played out during an evening in February of 1964 in that West Hazleton gymnasium has never been forgotten and will stand as "one of the most memorable  games ever played in Pennsylvania basketball history!"

These were the 1964 second half standings going into the
7 to 5 game.
Anthracite League
West Hazleton   2-0
Weatherly           2-0
Foster Twp.       2-0
St. Gabriel's        1-1
MMI                   1-1
Freeland             1-1
Hazle Twp.         0-2
St. Ann's            0-2

What is MMI?
On May 7, 1879, coal operator Eckley B. Coxe   opened the Industrial School for Miners and Mechanics, a two-story building in Drifton, Pennsylvania, funded by the Coxe family.  In 1888, a fire completely destroyed the Drifton school and it took five years to reorganize the school. The new school, now named the Miners and Mechanics' Institute of Freeland, Pennsylvania, opened on March 16, 1893.  In December, 1902, the front wing of the new school was built where MMI stands today. It was largely funded through contributions from Eckley Coxe's wife, Sophia Georgianna Coxe. Classes started in the new wing in the spring of 1903.
In 1970  the school accepted young women for the first time and the name of the school was changed to MMI Preparatory School.
The MMI 1973 boys' basketball squad won the state basketball championship, the first  independent school to do so. By that time, private schools had been given the opportunity to participate in the state playoffs.
On their webpage today they say that
"MMI is the most sought-after independent private school in Northeastern Pennsylvania."  Find their webpage here,

(Credits: Ray Saul, Don Barnes, Hazleton Standard-Speaker)
(Credit: )